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close this bookEmergency Management (United Nations Children's Fund, 390 p.)
close this folderWorkshop Session
View the documentSession 0: Opening Session
View the documentSession 1: Course Introduction*
View the documentSession 2: Perceptions of Emergencies
View the documentSession 3: Simulation*
View the documentSession 4: Principles of Emergency Management
View the documentSession 5: Early Warning & Pre-Disaster Planning
View the documentSession 6: Assessment
View the documentSession 7: Programme Planning
View the documentSession 8: Water & Sanitation
View the documentSession 9: Health
View the documentSession 10: Food and Nutrition
View the documentSession 11: Media Relations
View the documentSession 12: Supply and Logistics
View the documentSession 13: Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances
View the documentSession 14: International Relief System
View the documentSession 15: Funding
View the documentSession 16: Key Operating Procedures
View the documentSession 17: Applications of Emergency Manual and Handbook
View the documentSession 18: Training of Trainers

Session 5: Early Warning & Pre-Disaster Planning

Learning Objectives

- To recognize and correctly interpret early signs of deteriorating conditions and potential problems

- To be aware of existing systems which monitor indications of emergencies

- To identify the complexities and multi-sectoral linkages of effective country-level pre-disaster planning

- To describe UNICEF's role in such planning and provide guidelines for this role

- To raise awareness of importance and linkages between pre-disaster plans and country programme activities.

Learning Points

1. - Early warning is the identification, recognition and interpretation of events that indicate an emergency is about to occur.

2. - Identification requires:

a) Awareness of what the normal situation is: baseline data.
b) Knowledge of the underlying or contributing factors to a brewing emergency.
c) Understanding how the society normally deals or copes with that type of emergency.
d) Setting up of a monitoring system to detect changes.

3. - Recognition means:

a) Looking for rapid changes in a situation.
b) Recognizing patterns and indicators of change.
c) Identifying the triggers that cause the situation to explode or sets off a chain of events that might lead to an emergency.

4. - Interpretation is made through:

a) Diagnosing the patterns and indicators in addition to thresholds (things that show that the ability of the society to cope has been exceeded).

b) Comparing present situation to past emergency situations to come up with conclusions (Ethiopia famine of 1983/1984 was to a large extent similar to the one of 1972-1975).

c) Use of internationally recognized standards for indicators, e.g. death rates, indexes of health, height for weight, etc.

5. - Early warning vs. early reaction: in many cases we know that something is happening but we don't react to it early. The Ethiopian famine in 1983-1984 is a good case example. (Why is the reaction delayed?)

6. - Some aspects of preparedness and pre-disaster planning are:

a) Awareness of "vulnerability" and possible interventions to mitigate it.
b) Early warning systems.
c) Agreement on policies and interventions for: -

a) beneficiaries; b) Government; c) Intervening agency.

d) Assuring operational capacity to respond appropriately.

7. - Roles of government's sectoral ministries, U.N. agencies (including UNICEF), other international organizations, NGO's and communities' pre-disaster planning and preparedness.

8. - Utilizing/structuring of (UNICEF-assisted) country programmes for pre-disaster planning.

Possible Learning Methods

- Lecture
- Chose as suitable any of the following exercises for group work.
- Group exercise:

1. Ask participants to name three types of disaster in which UNICEF is most likely to be involved (e.g. civil conflict, famine, epidemic) in which early warning could have an effect.

2. Ask participants to identify three sectors in which UNICEF is most likely to be involved (e.g. water, nutrition, MCH)

3. Divide participants into three groups and allocate one type of an emergency and one sector of intervention to each group.

4. Ask the groups to:

a) Identify the underlying causes and contributing factors to "their emergency" that could be identified in advance.

b) Identify indicators, triggers and thresholds that might exist that when crossed will be an indication of an emergency.








a) - Causes

Floods, earthquakes, etc.

b) - Indicators

Water contamination, availability of water, etc. Triggers Migration, etc.

- Thresholds

Supply of water less than 5 L./person/day, etc.

- Group Exercise II

What are the main reasons for the delay in response to emergencies?

- Group Exercise III

What disaster mitigation measures could be most meaningful in your country/region?

- Group Exercise IV

How to ensure involvement of all concerned national institutions (water, health, agriculture, public works, etc.) in pre-disaster planning?

Required Reading

- UNICEF, "Assisting in Emergencies". Chapter 4 (Part 3), Chapters 8-14 (Assessment Checklists each chapter), Annex 1

- UNICEF Field Manual, Book E, Chapter 4

"Role of the Resident Representative in respect of pre-disaster planning and disaster relief" UNDP/PROG/FIELD/110/Rev.1. 12 October 1983. Field Manual Book E, Reference Note: R4)

Supplementary Reading

- UNICEF, "Assisting in Emergencies", Annex 43

- DMC, Disaster Assessment, Chapters 3, 10, 12

- Ron Ockwell, Some observations and comments concerning UNICEF's' participation in response to emergencies, Assessment (of need, post-disaster) p. 24-28

- Peter Cutler, "Food Crisis Detection, Going Beyond the Balance Sheet", Food Policy, August 1984, p. 189-192

Speakers' Preparation Aids

- Fred Cuny, "Early warning and contingency planning"
- Gullmar Andersson, "Early Warning in Armed Conflict Situations"


Speaker’s Aid

TITLE: Early Warning/Contingency Planning
AUTHOR: Fredrick Cuny



Early Warning/Contingency Planning

I. Introduction

A. A lot of talk of early warning

B. Much of nation is misplaced - building "systems"

C. Problem not early warning - it's early reaction

D. For early warning to work, we need to 1. shift emphasis and 2. remove obstacles to action - biggest obstacle? - funding

II. Define early warning

The ID, recognition and interpretation of events that indicate an emergency is about to occur

Basically, it's separating the usual from the unusual events

Some types of emergencies are easier than others

III. Let's look at the three elements

A. ID of events - requires:

1. Awareness of normal situation - base line data

Identification of underlying or contributing factors
Understanding of how the society normally deals with stress

2. Understanding what is abnormal

Ex. death rates, malnutrition rates, etc.

3. Monitoring to detect changes

B. Recognition of events: What we are looking for?

Rapid changes in situation

1. Patterns
2. Indicators - especially
3. Triggers

C. Interpretation

1. Patterns
2. Indicators
3. Thresholds

We want to know when a society's ability to deal with stress or an unusual situation is about to be exceeded

How do we know that?

1. Compare to past situations
2. Use internationally recognized standards for indicators
3. Personal, organizational judgment

IV. Practical Exercise

What types of disasters will UNICEF encounter where early warning could have an effect?

- conflicts
- epidemics
- famine

In which sectors is UNICEF likely to be involved?

- water and sanitation
- nutrition
- others

Divide into three terms


- underlying causes and contributing factors to the emergency that can be identified in advance
- indicators to watch
- triggers
- thresholds

V. Discussion

VI. What do you do next? C.R.A.M.

Communicate, react, activate, motivate
How do we get people (systems) to react?

VII. How to get reactions to early warning

1. Multiple messages from different reputable or credible sources

2. Collective action - committee

3. Answer the likely questions - ex. give your evaluation of credibility of others in early warning system

4. Decide what you want to do and seek concurrency - don't ask for suggestions from HQ

5. Report statistics graphically (if possible)

6. Use the correct reporting terms, standards, etc. and refer to baselines, ex. death rates

7. Communicate in person possible

8. Establish and use priority classifications for communications


Speaker’s Aid (2)

TITLE: Early Warning in Armed Conflict Situations
AUTHOR: Gullmar Andersson



By J. Gullmar Andersson

It is very difficult to come to general conclusions on this subject as armed conflicts develop in so many different ways. In some war situations, escalation may develop hour by hour or an attack may come as a complete surprise.

Civil wars can, on the other hand, take years to erupt although the under laying fundamental issues, that may create a civil war, have been evident for a long time.

The "early warning" in war situations must use other indicators than in "normal" disaster situations. The most important is to keep oneself as well informed as possible. A few suggestions:

a. Mass Media

Follow, to the extend possible, through mass media, political developments both within the country as well as in the region.

b. UNICEF Office

Your own office is often a good source of information as our local staff are well informed through their "knowledge network" of possible developments within the country.

c. Normal Governments and Other Participants

Can be most accurate and good source of information an excellent relationship exists of mutual trust.

d. Production Changes

If a country prepares for war, the industrial production pattern changes to put the country on "warfooting". One indicator can be that certain items disappear from the market without any reason.

e. "Unusual Events"

Always keep an eye on "unusual events". This could be visible unrest in the population, violent strikes, demonstrations, sudden raise in crime rates and unusual high activity of armed forces.

f. Rumors

The general rule is: "Don't listen to or spread rumors". That is a good rule, however, it can be slightly modified to "listen to rumors, carefully evaluate what you have heard - but don't spread it further". There might be some truth in what you hear and that should not be neglected. Try then to verify through other sources.

g. Embassies

Embassies are very useful especially in a developing situation for fundraising, assistance with evacuations, etc. and should always be an important contact point. Some embassies can, however, be a bit "tricky" in obtaining information from, prior to changing situations.

Last but not least: If UNICEF is known in the country to be an efficient and reliable organization, you have solved many of the problems in "early warning" as many will be more inclined to pass on information to you.


Day _______________
Session ____________

1. In your view, what were the key points learned in this session?

2. Comment on the application of these within UNICEF and your situation.

3. Suggest any additional critical points that should have been covered.

4. Do you have comments on the suggested reading?

Suggest any additional information sources for sessions of the day.
Case Studies:

5. Comment on the learning methodology (lectures, group work, films) used in the session.